Friday, 20 January 2012

Keziah — From Africa to England

Keziah is home sick from school. But you'd never be able to tell the energetic 10-year-old has a cough. I watch as she bounces across YWAM's International Communications office, her mass of orange hair springing behind her. I ask her to come and sit beside me — after all, I don't get as much of a chance to talk to MKs (mission kids) as I should like. Despite having half-way grown up as one.

She swivels back and forth in her chair as she beams up at me. "I've been in YWAM my whole life and I've lived in four countries," she tells me, holding up four fingers. "Mozambique, Uganda, South Africa, and now England." I asked her where she misses the most. "South Africa. I miss school there; they're too strict here in England. They make you change your shoes to go outside in the rain, but in South Africa, we didn't have to wear shoes at all!"

When asked about any interesting adventures she's had, she flashes a squinty-eyed grin and says a sentence which makes me cringe, "Eaintg flying-ants." When Keziah was living in Uganda she remembers being invited to a friend's house. While there, her friend offered her flying ants cooked in oil and butter with a dash of salt. At first Keziah was disgusted. However, as the week went on, she decided to give this odd a snack a try. Her thoughts? "It was fab. Tasted just like chips."

Keziah has been in YWAM her entire life, but never wants that to change. Despite having had more exotic adventures than the common 10-year-old, YWAM has not scared her off, but rather encouraged her to be more outgoing. "I want to do something with YWAM when I grow up. Maybe a literacy teacher? Whatever I do, I don't want to leave."

Sidra Zimmerman works for YWAM's International Communications office in England, and is also a part-time editor for YWAM Kids Wordwide. She is originally from Louisville, Kentucky.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

A Week to Remember

Katie, in Zambia.

There are certain things that one would never ever experience if one wasn’t an MK. This week has been one of those experiences.

Monday was a relatively normal day. A bit tense as everyone prepared for what promised to be one of the most interesting elections Zambia had ever seen. We talked about the fact that some towns in the province next to us had sold out all machetes and catapults. We talked about what the consequences would be if the current president, Rupiah Banda, and his party, the MMD which had been in power since 1991, lost. The only person he could lose to was Michael Sata, president of the PF party and quite a scary, unpredictable man. We canceled all events that were supposed to take place the next day, election day, and said we’d play it by ear for the rest of the week.

Tuesday started unlike any other.
We live just outside city center on a slip road along the most prestigious road in the city where many a national monument is built and many an embassy’s flag can be seen flying. It’s the home of all Zambia’s parades and most of its government buildings. It’s called Independence Boulevard. We’re also next door to the Civic Center and its ever popular bus stop for the multitude of mini buses that inhabit the city. Also, we’re one roundabout away from the Supreme and High Courts.

This is normally a very active area. There’s always steady traffic building up, hooting, and revving on Independence. On our road there are people walking up and down or just standing around. Normally children can be heard yelling and laughing. There are usually one or two radios turned on loud enough to be heard as you walk past the houses. There are people standing outside their gates talking casually to their neighbours and little kiosks set up along the road and all around the Civic Center.

Our house itself is a revolving door. There’s a steady stream of people coming in to talk or use the computers or join in one of our prayer meetings. We have a cottage on our property in addition to the main house it houses the rest of our YWAM team and our offices and is normally the source of a steady stream of laughter and music and chitter chatter floating around the property. We also have a maid and a gardener as most here do. Normally we have continuous faces, and voices, and doors opening and closing.

Today, however, there was silence and emptiness. I got up to find just my parents and myself inhabiting our house. The cottage was silent. The voting had begun. At about eleven I began going stir crazy and decided to take a walk down to the end of the street to see if there was anyone out and if any of the kiosks were open. I stepped out our gate into an empty road. As I walked the only sound was the constant pat – pat – pat of my shoes against the cracked tar. The sun was warm and the breeze was teasing, but there were no children or people out for it to tease. The atmosphere was thick with almost palpable tension. A large police truck filled to the brim with riot police rumbled past me coming from the police camp behind our road and going goodness knows where. I finally saw the only two people I’d see that day standing outside the Civic Center. A kiosk I passed was boarded up and all the normal vendors were gone. I walked back down to our house in the eerie silence that continued the rest of the day. There were rumours of violence and rioting in certain cities and certain parts of town, but most proved to be much exaggerated.

Wednesday we sat twiddling our thumbs nervously as the results came trickling in. Most all schools and regular activities were closed, but peace still reigned.

Thursday we learned that Tuesday and Wednesday had been nothing. People started to become very agitated with the delay in the counting and announcing of the results. Small acts of violence and stupidity began. People stayed indoors with their doors and gates locked. Friends and family started checking up on each other and pleading with each other to stay indoors and stay safe. The tension had a dose of anxiety thrown in for good measure. The utter boredom from three days of being shut in began to get to people. Facebook was hopping with posts from bored, nervous, impatient people.

Friday, 1:34am. The results are announced. Opposition leader Michael Sata has come out victorious. I was just falling asleep when I heard the fireworks. Being half asleep and having three days of pent up anxiety I assumed it to be gun shots. However, the cheering, singing, whistling, vuvuzelas sounding, and hooting of car horns on the street outside soon calmed me. I got up and ran into wake my mum telling her we had a winner. I knew who it was before I checked from the yells of “pabwato!” the PF slogan, outside. I went and turned the TV on to the local government station to watch the official announcement. I went back to bed thinking, “God help us all, but at least it’s over,” and being lulled to sleep by the chaotic sounds of the happy, probably intoxicated victors.

I woke up again at seven to the same ruckus I had left when I went to bed. My mum was on the phone with our maid who was apologizing profusely, but explaining that there just was no way she was getting into work on time due to the fact that no buses were actually running for business. At about nine I went down to the closest intersection to watch the bus loads of people celebrating and the hundreds of people running up and down Independence. I went back home to find our maid voiceless from the celebrations, but still whispering an explanation on what had been going on in the rest of the city since 1 am.

She said that when the results had been announced the townships, or as we call them here – compounds, came to life. Shops, bars, and kiosks that had been closed for three days opened up. People came running out of their houses yelling their joy. They had then run into town and met up in their thousands. They ran across the city to the conference center where the results had been announced and cheered as the party members left. The celebration had continued the whole morning and few had gotten any sleep.
I went back out to take photos and my mum and some other members of our YWAM team came along. We went down to the intersection and into the noise and the craziness. There were people blowing vuvuzelas while standing on top of mini buses and hanging on to the outside of fast moving vehicles, the PF flag was being flown and their party song was being sung as well as their slogans being chanted. After we’d been standing there a little while a huge mass of people could be spotted about 100 meters away from us taking up all four lanes of the road. They stopped and were soon joined by an equally large mass of people. They proceeded to run cheering en masse down past us and toward the Courts where the inauguration was to be held. The celebrations continued all day and the masses that turned up for the inauguration speech were like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

Saturday is just another day here. If you were to walk through town you would never guess what has happened in the last week. All is back to normal. People are sober and going to work. Everything is bustling in its normal Lusaka way. People show no signs of victory or defeat. All is well.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Cups of tea, and other things

My name is Tatenda,I live Mozambique.

I'd like to have a bed and breakfast in Scotland and then be a missionary teacher
in some remote place in Africa. The reason why I'd like to have a B&B is that I like to serve. One of my favourite things in life is making my Dad a cup of tea: putting just the right amount of milk, no sugar, leave the teabag in, put it on a tray and serve with a smile. I love to see his face light up when I hand him his cup of tea.

I love being an MK and I believe we have a really special purpose all over the world.

Somebody once said in an email to me after she had visited: "It became very evident to me that God has a special call on your lives."

My biggest problem is not having a best friend. That is, a human best friend. God is always there for me when I need a friend, and better than any friend I could ever have in the future.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Kudzai Mbewe, British- Zimbabwean, living in Mozambique

I have a foot in too many worlds. Actually, that isn't even the right figure of speech to use, because I don't have enough feet to go in all the worlds I'm supposed to be in. It's three worlds really, and I mean the countries and cultures: Zimbabwe, England and Mozambique. My dad's Zimbabwean, my mom's English and I live in Mozambique. The thing about being mixed race, mixed culture, and mixed nationality (mongrel, as one friend once said) is that you never feel accepted anywhere. People always want to label each other and put people in categories (I don't blame them; I do it myself) but the trouble is that I don't fit into anybody's neatly labelled file. I guess I think of myself mostly as English (as opposed to Spanish or Filipino, not really truly English) but I don't think that's what a British person would really think. Mozambiquans will call me "White" and they hardly ever see beyond that. Zimbabweans just want me to be Zimbabwean, which annoys me; just because my dad's from there doesn't mean that's where I feel my home is. There's more to it than passports.

Then there's the colour thing. I'm black-white, which (relearn your colours) isn't grey; it's a kind of yellow/ brown colour. I wouldn't be ashamed to be called black or white if I were one of those, but I'm not. And in Africa, people look at me and think "white" with negative connotations, and in England they think "black", which I'm not. In South Africa people would call me coloured, which is what I would call myself, and I don't stand out there - that is, until I speak, and then people have to rethink. I can see the mystified look on a shopper's face in a supermarket when they hear my English accent. It's worse if they hear me speaking Portuguese or Sena (the local language here).

I know this sounds like a long paragraph of complaints, but that's actually not what it's supposed to be. I don't expect people to be able to look at me and recite my genealogies or know how I feel about skin tones; I'm just stating the plight of the missionary child, especially the mixed race one: fitting in.

I would call Mozambique my home. It's where I'm most accepted without questions. People here love the fact that I speak their language, respect their culture and enjoy learning from them and teaching them what I know about the world beyond their part of it. People here often listen to something I say and just shake their heads and say, " These white people" but I think they enjoy hearing a different opinion on life.

Our garden is the temporary YWAM base until the base outside of town is finished, which means that we have the privilege of interacting with the students and staff of the D.T.S, that first my parents and then a lovely Mozambiquan couple have been running since 2005. The D.T.S is, for me, the (predictable) highlight of every year. I make friends with the students and have wonderful discussion on theology, culture, and life experiences. I have taught a number of the women to knit for their babies and talked about hygiene and nutrition with those who are interested in improving their health and the health of their children. Last year there were nine children (belonging to various students) and I enjoyed playing with them, especially when some of them had to be left behind for their schooling when their parents went on outreach. We had riotous games of "church", "house" and "pumpkins", a traditional Sena game. It was wonderful to see lives changed on the D.T.S and we still enjoy seeing the graduates of the school sometimes.

I am proud and happy to be a YWAM kid. To see God work and change lives is a great privilege, especially when I can have the honour of showing a person His love through actions and words that speak of Him. Sometimes things seem really difficult, and I wouldn't say now (and don't think I ever will) that I haven't a care in the world, but I am so encouraged when I think of the words of an old hymn "Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace". He has his plans and we can't understand them withour " feeble sense", but when we trust Him, He can work things out, whatever the difficulties concerning fitting in and being a "mongrel".

God doesn't put us in boxes and files as humans do. That's so good to remember.

Claire, living in Louisville, USA

Hi! My name is Claire I live in Louisville, KY. I've lived here ever since my Mom and Dad started a YWAM base here, so about three or four years. Before that I lived in Tennessee for six and a half years! Out of all the places I've lived that would have to be my favorite place!! But before that I lived in Arkansas until I was two.

I am what some(lots) of people call weird, I'm a vegetarian, I'm home-schooled, I like being dramatic and I guess I just act weird some times. And my friend described me as a crazy twelve year old! :) I love mid-evil times, Robbin Hood ,and middle earth(lord of the rings/hobbit)! I'm tall for my age. Most of my friends are in YWAM. I love being with YWAM kids!

I have a brother and he's 14. I have a really cute and funny dog that I love lots! I love my family and my environment, including being in YWAM!:) If you want to know more about me I have a blog that I would love for you to look at! Click here.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Tales of a Child on the Zambezi River

Nyasha, from Zimbabwe, living in Marromeu.

My first problem is saying where I'm from. When people ask me, I generally come out with this: "Well, my father's Zimbabwean and my mother's British, I have British and Zimbabwean passports but we live in Mozambique." To be precise, we live in Marromeu, which, as my mother says, used to be a 'one horse town' and now could perhaps be termed a 'two horse town.' I suppose my history with Marromeu began when my parents spent a couple of weeks of their honeymoon sharing a room with another couple in a flea-ridden, rat-infested house in the centre of town. And yes, they are still happily married. I was born two years later in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. And two years after that, my first sister came along, in England, just before my family moved back to Zimbabwe in preparation for moving way out to Mozambique. My earliest memories are of living in a little flat in Glen Norah, Harare, where, as I distinctly remember, my mother used to complain about the red and white flowered curtains in the kitchen. I didn't understand why, at age two and a half. I also distinctly remember our first attempt at a move out to Marromeu in the old land rover, with the Heathcotes. We got stuck in the mud of one of the worst dirt roads in Africa a little on the way to Marromeu. I wanted to get out and help dig the land rover out, and I couldn't understand why my father didn't let me, till I remembered my baby sister: "If I got out, Kudzai would want to get out too, and of course she's far too little. That's why".

We eventually moved to Marromeu in September 1999, and we have lived here ever since. And on the whole, I have loved it. It's always been home. We learned Sena, played with our local friends, did so many fun things- like paddling in plastic tubs in the huge puddle that formed at the bottom of the garden when it rained, or crossing the River Zambezi in a giant canoe for ministry on the opposite bank. Because we live in such an isolated place, for a long time my only experience of YWAM being YWAM was weekly prayer meetings with the one other missionary family, the Santoses, but in 2004 we went to Windhoek, Namibia so my parents could do the LTS and I loved meeting the YWAMers from all over the world. I have loved being part of YWAM in Africa- all the conferences we have been to - the crazy one where the whole of YWAM Marromeu plus the DTS running at the time packed into a tiny truck and travelled all day and a goodly portion of the night to some tiny Catholic mission high in the mountains where the conference was being held, or when my family made the journey from Marromeu to Cape town, I can't remember how many thousand kilometres, in just three days for the IFMLT. That was when I was thirteen, the same year as when our whole family moved to Luawe, a remote location in the Zambezi delta, for six weeks. That was just amazing. We were completely cut off. Our only contact with the outside world was through Satellite phone, in emergencies, or occasionally through letter sent by canoe to Marromeu. Once our friends in Marromeu sent us a package by canoe, with a little piece of chocolate for each of us, and it tasted like heaven. Not that we missed things like that (although one sunny day I had a sudden inexplicable craving for a peanut butter and jam sandwich.) The break from the stresses of ordinary life, even ordinary life in remote Marromeu, was truly amazing and refreshing. None of us wanted to leave at the end of our six weeks. But our time was so much more than a break in the jungle- the people were the most precious part of it. We helped teach in the tiny school. I gave art lessons, one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done in my life.

We had such a great time, and yet now, I am fifteen, and I wonder: would I go back? Just two years have made a huge difference to the way I look at my life in Marromeu. As my mother puts it, I 'want to spread my wings, and I can't.' I will always love Marromeu, but now as I grow up there are so many things which I want to do and cannot. Besides this, the older I grow the more sharply aware I become of the culture differences between me and my Sena friends. And this brings in one of the toughest problems we MKs can face: who am I? I long to be Sena, to be totally accepted by the Sena, but I am not and never will be, any more than I am totally English or Zimbabwean.

Mind you, I have left out the most important part in my story. You could say that my troubles started when I turned fourteen and started to become discontented with Marromeu. But on the whole, these last couple of years have been a time when I have learned more and more to turn to God. It's amazing to look back and see how God has been there for me, and I have discovered that the most important thing is not what I would like to do or who I am, but who God is and who I am to Him.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Reyna, living in Madison, USA.

I am Reyna and I live in Madison, Wisconsin. I am thirteen.

I have three brothers and four sisters. Youth With A Mission has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. We worked at a base in Adams, Tennessee until God called my dad to do a Bible school here in Wisconsin, and so we moved. Our family really began to connect with our neighbors in Madison. The kids congregated to our house to play and talk about life (and eat dinner with us). Our Yellow House is a kid hang-out. During the divorce of their parents, we were able to be a place of comfort for two sisters and reach out to them with God's love. A teenage boy and his sister often come over to play and swap recipes with Mom and talk about politics. God has definitely called us here to make a difference in the lives of these individuals using His influence.

In 2005 we were a (smaller) family of seven, and we went on a missions trip with a church group to Mexico. We stayed at a hotel in Cancun. That was when we heard that Hurricane Emily was heading toward that area, at a Category 4. The team began to get ready: I have a snatch of memory like a photo of my dad walking around carrying big containers of water in both arms; after boards were put up over the windows, the children ran about coloring on them with big markers; the entire group gathered in one place (in the shade) for prayer. We prayed that God would weaken the hurricane's strength, or send Emily back to the water she had come from, and that he would protect the people in the hurricane's range.

On the night the storm was expected to hit our area, we went to bed full of prayers. The kids - and that included me at the time - fell asleep expectant, but unsure exactly what we were expecting. In the middle of the night, I opened my eyes to solid darkness and the sound of what I imagined to be a giant train passing right by our window. Mom told me it was the hurricane, and I went back to sleep. The next day we found out what God had done: the hurricane had gone down to a category 3 (which meant it was no longer technically a hurricane but a tropical storm), and its path had also swerved away from Cancun, instead of directly hitting us as had been expected. It had instead hit about an hour and a half south of us, and because of our earlier preparations, we able to - as a group of a hundred and forty people - go out there and give rice, beans, oil, and drinking water to the people in that area.

The question "what does it mean to you to be on mission with your family" made me think. I believe that it is to be a Godly influence on those around me while continuing to learn with my family about God and how to live for Him. Indeed, "To know God and make Him known!"